Discussion about
dave

June 10th 2014 1:23 pm

How do you manage the mobile data crunch?



Recently, I started taking a more serious look at how much mobile data I've been using. My Verizon plan provided me with 4GB of data per month (plus allowed me to use a mobile hotspot).

After looking at how I've been using my data, I've used more than **2GB** exactly once in the last year: ~3.2GB for December. Well, enough throwing away money!

So, I dropped down to the lowest tier (2GB / month, no mobile hotspot). Go figure, the moment I do this, I start to run into some data issues! Thanks to going out of town and then streaming a few hours of Rdio, I'm finding that I need to start doing some drastic data saving measures.

Basically, while less than halfway through my billing cycle, I used something like 70% of my mobile data. That meant I could really only use about 35MB per day. In theory, that sounds fine. But accidentally opening up Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter eats up a huge chunk of data right off the bad. It got to the point where I either turned on Airplane Mode or turned off cellular data. Once I was at home or the office, the phone hopped on the WiFi network and I had no problems.

Watching my dwindling data supply gave me as much anxiety as watching my dwindling power supply (fun fact: anything below 80% means it's time for emergency conservation measures).

How do you track and cope with limited mobile data?

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23 replies
Dignan17

My solution: $30/month on T-Mobile for unlimited text/data and 100 min of voice. It's a fantastic plan that they never advertise. Ok, it's actually more like 5GB/month then throttled, but that's ok because I never hit the 5GB mark.

What it comes down to is the applications you're using. Does the iPhone show you your data consumption on a per-app basis? On Android I can see which apps use the most data (and battery, of course), and make decisions based on that.

For example, my biggest data hog is my podcast app, Doggcatcher. Now, if I were actually regularly in danger of hitting my cap, Doggcatcher has the option to only download episodes when I'm on WiFi. Other apps have similar options. I'm never in this danger, so I just let it download whenever it wants.

For me, historically the worst offender in terms of both battery and data consumption has been Facebook. I hate that app so much... For some reason it insists on always running and it takes up a ton of data. Or at least, it has in the past. I've uninstalled it because it annoyed me so much and I don't like using Facebook anyway :)
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dave

Speaking of Facebook and data, I think this tweet from this morning is really relevant:



https:­/­/www.dropbox.com­/s­/f5vrdy5ys91w1gf­/Screensh...
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joelhamill

I believe that one of the features of iOS 8 was that battery life would be shown on a per app basis.
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Dignan17

I heard about that, but I wasn't sure if they had a data consumption log...
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joelhamill

I realize now it was only the battery life on a per app basis. I don't know if there is a data consumption log. I don't see anything in the Settings on iOS 7 on my iPad Air. Maybe in iOS 8?
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joelhamill

I am an unlucky lucky person in that I have a grandfathered unlimited 4G data plan from Verizon. This means that I don't have a contract (lucky) since changing any terms of my grandfathered contract would revert me to the 2 or 4GB data plan. But, that also means that I have to buy my phones at full price (unlucky) because, again, any change (including adding a new phone through Verizon) would strip me of my unlimited data. As someone who routinely goes through 10GB a month (streaming music, baseball games both audio and video, Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites) I would have a difficult time with a 4GB plan.
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bitflung

buying phones outright without signing a contract is the best way to go for most folks (even though few seem to realize this). even on verizon you can get a monthly discount by not subsidizing your phone (getting $200 discount upfront for a promise to pay $400+ extra over two years). might not apply to you though, since you might not be able to get it without tickling the grandfathered plan a bit.

just one good reason to find a carrier that sucks less. i'm a huge fan of Republic Wireless, but the t-mobile plan mentioned above by Dignan17 is also fantastic.
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joelhamill

I don't find Verizon to be too sucky service wise. Actually, they're the most dependable for coverage where I have checked. I don't lament the need to buy my phones outright because I use them for as long as possible. I just recently upgraded from a Galaxy Nexus to a Moto X and will use that for a good long time.
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bitflung

i'm running a moto X as well - very happy with it. and i've bought all my phones outright for the past... ahh... many years (i can't recall the last time i bought one on contract, but i'm sure i did at some point in time. maybe 10-15 years ago?)

my point was only that you could usually get an extra cost savings by refraining from the subsidized device process, but in your case i'm not sure VZW would honor both the grandfathered plan and the discounted service for bringing your own device.
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joelhamill

No discount for bringing my own device. But, since I'm on a family plan it's unlimited data/texts/400 minutes for $45. Can't beat that. And the coverage is excellent.
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frankspin

For some consumers, there is a benefit to buying on-contract phones. It's sometimes easier for people to pay $0-200 for a phone and the subsequent monthly bills then it is to take on an upfront investment of $500-700.
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TgD

I am lucky enough to have a 5gb 'grandfathered' plan on my carrier (dropped down from 6gb to save a bit of money) and I will hold on to it until I die or they take it away at this rate.

However, saving data tips!

1. Using chrome's compression (on android, is it on iOS?) seems to save me some data
2. Only listen to local music in the car, not streaming.
3. Set social networks to only refresh manually. (In your case, hide them in a folder if you are accidentally clicking them :P )
4. The obvious one, WiFi where available. I realize though that a lot of the time phones are only used when you are out and not at home/work
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frankspin

Right now I'm on 6GB of data, but once this cycle ends I'm going to drop it down to 3GB and see if I can make that work. If I know I'll be away from WiFi for an extended time (2+ days) I'll hop onto Verizon and bump it up if need be.

I've taken to turning off as many background services as possible, and set up any photo sync to only do it on WiFi.
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LaDeX

No limits on mobile data in Finland.
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bitflung

easy: I'm on Republic Wireless.

$40/mo for unlimited everything including LTE service (drops to slower data rates after 5GB)
my wife is on the $25/mo plan for unlimited everything but only 3G data rates (again, drops to slower rates after 5GB of data)

if i'm feeling particularly thrifty, i can tap a few buttons on my phone to drop to a lower rate ($5/mo is the minimum) and stick there for a while (till i need more from the service) and just tap a few buttons again to switch back up to my LTE plan.

data crunch? what data crunch?
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dave

When my contract is up, this might be something that I have to consider. Are they an MVNO and basically piggybacking off someone like Sprint? If so, I find Sprint's coverage to be pretty dire. Maybe it's improved though.
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frankspin

Republic's whole thing is that they have you access WiFi whenever possible, hence the plan offerings. They do in fact use Sprint's network as a fall over if no WiFi is present for the phones to use.

MVNO's can be good, but I'm still "brainwashed" by the reliability of Verizon. I need to know I can make a phone call when I'm 2+ hours into a bike ride and 30 miles away from my house.
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bitflung

if VZW actually works for you and others wouldn't, then clearly that's the network for you. 'round here (metro boston area) VZW is the least reliable network (for both voice and data), followed closely by Sprint (yup, and i'm on a sprint mvno).

RW's wifi calling gets around the reliability issue for me - but to be honest both VZW and Sprint are "usable" despite being the "least reliable" around here. they aren't as good as the GSM carriers when on the road, but they are usable.

Sprint's LTE is great around here too: I consistently get ~20Mbps down (don't recall the uplink just now, but haven't ever had an issue with it). VZW's LTE has been getting bogged down lately it seems, but the data king here is tmobile anyways.
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bitflung

yup, they are an MVNO and they do use Sprint.
as frankspin mentioned, they also work on wifi.

i've been with them since nov 2011 and have been very happy. they are the only sprint MVNO (that i've heard of anyway) with access to all of sprint's roaming partners (e.g. verizon) which puts them in a different class of service than Virgin, Boost, Ting, etc.

with Softbank investing heavily in Sprint infrastructure (they are out-spending all other carriers on LTE deployment right now) and the pending merger with T-Mobile (most likely will consolidate just the LTE infrastructure) their highspeed data footprint is poised to be second to none in the near future (6-12 months out in my opinion).

sadly their voice network won't improve from any of this (well, some of sprint-vision includes CDMA upgrades, but that's paltry next to the data improvements). so if sprint VOICE service is dire in your area, not much is likely to change till VoLTE is up and running. when that happens it might be worth checking back into Sprint again.
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M3rzza

And, I use 50 000MB a month through my mobile data, and I only pay max 15€/20,5$ of it :). And most of it goes to mobile hotspot, becouse i dont use ANY apps on my phone.
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bitflung

*sigh* you've got better options than we've got in the states.
at least we aren't as bad off as Canada... last i checked they were getting royally screwed up there.
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TgD

Oh... we are getting screwed up here. There are a few loopholes though in the system :)
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Met

I just use the built-in Android feature that tracks my data usage and gives me a warning at 3.7 GB (4 GB is my limit). Most months I pass 3 GB, but have only hit 3.9 GB once (of course, once I hit 3.7, I go on extreme data conservation mode), which means that I'm on the right package.

My telecom provider offers 3 choices with what happens after exceeding your data limit:
  1. You pay per MB used after that at full 4G speeds.
  2. Your speed gets throttled to something like 256 K for the rest of the month.

I chose option 2 just to protect myself from paying extra.
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